View Full Version : Printing Soft-Focus Negatives

13-Jun-2017, 19:53
Although I brought along a 8x10 camera in a recent trip in case a Kallitype image should appear (and several did!), the main idea was to photograph a particular subject with a 4x5 camera fitted with a 250mm Imagon soft focus lens and enlarge the negative onto 11x14 Ilford Art 300 paper.

Now my usual working procedure when printing silver gelatin is to find the correct exposure for the whites at grade 2 and then adjusting the paper grade to “pop” the blacks. Usually this ends-up with in a grade 2.5 print from a 4x5 negative. But suppose you wanted to go in the opposite direction and wanted a grade 0 or 1 print as the result? Would you still start at grade 2 and determine the exposure and contrast for the whites and blacks as above - presumably ending-up at grade 2.5 - and then adjust the contrast down to suit your vision or would you start at grade 0 or 1 and work from there?


13-Jun-2017, 21:48
I make nearly all my prints using split-grade, and it's interesting to see how different the thinking is. I think about my prints in terms of highlights, highlight detail, mids, mid separation. darks and shadow details -- and adjust exposures for what I have in mind. I don't even know what contrast grade I'm aiming at :) If I understand what you're aiming at, I'd use test strips to determine a rather long grade zero exposure, and then add grade 5 bit by bit until it got broadly to what I wanted. Then if the midtones look muddier than desired, I'd dodge them during part of the grade zero exposure. So I think that's closer to starting at grade 0 or 1 and then working from there, but I'm not sure about that. A pure grade zero print can have a delicate almost pencil drawing look which can be very nice, and I don't think very many people who print the traditional way play around with it much to see what is possible. Good luck and have fun printing!

13-Jun-2017, 23:00

Ned's advice on split filtered printing is spot on. You're already doing the work, you know how find the
correct highlights -that please your eye- at grade 2, just do the same starting with grade 0...
you can 'set' the darks by adding some grade 5 exposure, essentially adding contrast.
Bob Carnie often mentions this approach...


14-Jun-2017, 12:01
Thanks for the replies Ned and Tim.

After sleeping on it my thinking is that starting from the point/grade that delivers the "snappiest" print from the negative, developer, and paper combination and then working the paper grade back down for the "best" soft effect is the best way to go.


Don Dudenbostel
14-Jun-2017, 18:07
How do you dodge and burn when printing with split grade? I've printed sixty years and just don't think that way. I think almost every negative I've made benefits from dodging and burning. I'm curious.

14-Jun-2017, 18:25
without dodging during split-filtered printing, contrast is given by the ratio of times of the two grades.

Say we're using two separate exposures in turn, with two contrasts, 0 and 5.
If the times are equal, you'll get something like a 2. More '5' time vs '0' = more contrast

For example: take an overall combined exposure of 10 seconds: '0' vs '5' secs:
1:9 - mostly '5', pretty contrasty
5:5 - even, something like a '2'
9:1 - mostly '0', little contrast

now think of Ned's suggestion, "...if the midtones look muddier than desired, I'd dodge them during part of the grade zero exposure."

- dodging during the '0' exposure, the dodged portion of the print gets a little less '0', but the same '5'
and hence will have a little more contrast, and less exposure overall
- dodging during the '5' exposure lessens contrast on that area.